By Devon Hiphner
Various technologies in contemporary society are expanding and developing everyday, recently the most notable of these technologies is the wireless phenomenon. Going through any given day you may see hundreds of people everywhere on their cell phones texting, accessing the internet, emailing via their smart phones or computers through a wireless internet connection. Although many find this technology to be the best thing that has ever happened in technology, it has also raised many questions and concerns about social development. Many researchers believe and I would agree, that these technological abilities cause problems and deficiencies within a person’s life. For example people are becoming socially inept, disruptive, and unconnected to the environment around them.
One of the most popular features about cell phones and smart phones include the texting option that works like instant messaging on computers. Many cell phones even include a full keyboard with grammatical punctuations. While other cell phones do not have this feature, the person may rely on a newly developed SMS language to make IM (instant messaging) easier. This form of language can be detrimental to a young person’s language skills development as it impairs reading and comprehension capabilities without the use of proper grammar and punctuation. In addition the abbreviation text language hinders young people, i.e. the joining of consonants and removing vowels. Using these abbreviations may cause young people’s English language and writing skills to fall below average as they become accustom to spelling words inaccurately with the consonant sounds. One of the consequences will be young people will be held back in school and fail to meet other education institutional standards.
Another result of using wireless forms of communications such as cell phones, Blackberries, texting, and wireless internet connection is the constant computer use in class which can become very distractive and disruptive. If a class lecture is boring or unappealing to a student, they will most certainly begin ‘facebooking’ or texting a friend who may be elsewhere or may be attending the same class. This can be a problem as those taking part in the texting are no longer present to the class and its learning’s, plus, disrupts other within the proximity of those texting as they ‘look on’. In addition the students participating in the texting or ‘facebooking’ may miss important material to their own academic detriment, missing important information examinable on an upcoming test. A common request made by many teachers is that students put their cell phones on silent or vibrate to decrease the chances of an alarm, ring tone, or musical interlude disturbing the entire class, but of course this request seems to always slips someone’s attention and inevitable incoming call disrupts the focus and concentration on the teacher and subject matter is broken for everyone.
These few simple examples illustrate to me that wireless and internet communications may have advanced to far into our social settings becoming a nuisance rather than a blessing to our daily lives. Perhaps in the following years when people have been interrupt so much in their daily lives and social circumstance people will see that these technologies should be cut back or guided by new social norms which will prevent the interruptions on our lives, but still offer us easy communications when appropriate.
Jennifer Daryl Slack, and J. Macgregor Wise, the authors of our course reader Culture + Technology A Primer, describes a scenario in a post secondary school of a busy courtyard. This courtyard was a “cultural space” where students gathered in groups to talk about their lives and classes, and to grab a bite to eat. This gathering of individuals meeting or passing through was a community developed within the courtyard of the school itself. However with the growing popularity of the cell phone, students no longer spoke to each other but instead to their cell phones; communicating with people away from and outside the courtyard. To Slack and Wise, this change in communication, changed the atmosphere from a community to more of a “gathering of individuals”.
Does this mean that the cell phone will bring an end to community as we know it? As time passes and the availability and popularity of cell phones and other instant messaging increases, people interact with other people in their immediate surroundings less and less. Instead they tend exist in a virtual form of themselves via text messages, msn and Facebook. Some could say that this trend is causing people to become more isolated from each other. Instead of spending time with people face to face, people shut themselves off in rooms with their computers and spend time communicating to people via their computers or cell phones.
However, some people argue that this anonymousness and impersonal communication is a good thing. Sometimes individuals don’t necessarily want to communicate with other people face to face; with virtual communication one does not have to worry about what they look like or how they are dressed. Instead they can be comfortably dressed in their pajamas, warm in bed, e-mailing their bosses on why they can’t come to work that day. This kind of communication also allows people to choose who they wish to communicate with and when. As opposed to being forced to speak to whomever approaches them, programs like instant messaging allows people to easily block those whom they do not wish to speak to, yet have their contact information handy in case they need their help in the future.
On the other hand, it could also be argued that things like instant messaging and cell phones builds up an even larger community of people than is possible just communicating with people face to face. One could easily meet new people with similar interests though the web, or get in contact with friends you haven’t seen since high school, which without these communication medias, would otherwise be unreachable. These types of media also transcends space allowing individuals to get in contact and communicate with people thousands of miles away as if they were right there in the room.
So do these new media of cell phones and instant messaging threaten to destroy our community life? My answer is no. I don’t believe the use of these technologies decrease community life in any way, but instead change the definition and our understanding of communities. Instead of communities consisting of communication face to face, these medias allow for the communication across space and to a larger and more diverse population of people. So instant message and phone to your hearts content, knowing that by doing so, you are only building up your own community life.
In 1949 George Orwell portrays a chilling world where large bureaucracies use computers to monitor and enslave the population in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four…
As a first term student starting CultureNet in Spring 08, one of our main resources is a book called Culture + Technology: A Primer by Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise. This book is not an ordinary text book, but instead covers controversial issues about technology and its effects on our communication and lifestyles. A topic that especially caught my interest was how society’s and technology’s paths have become so intertwined, that our dependence on technology has made us slaves to the very thing we created to enslave. As an avid techno-nerd, I wholeheartedly agree with this concept.